National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Flood at Port-Marly Alfred Sisley (artist)
French, 1839 - 1899
Flood at Port-Marly, 1872
oil on canvas
overall: 46.4 x 61 cm (18 1/4 x 24 in.) framed: 64.7 x 80 x 9.5 cm (25 1/2 x 31 1/2 x 3 3/4 in.)
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
1985.64.38
Not on View
From the Tour: The Beginnings of Impressionist Landscape
Object 4 of 7

In December 1872, the Seine overflowed its banks at the small village of Port-Marly. The opportunity to paint the watery reflections of a rain-heavy sky lured both Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet. Sisley painted several flood views in 1872, and others a few years later.

Traditionally, artists depicted flood scenes to communicate the drama and destructive power of nature. Sisley, however, who has been called the "purest" of the impressionists, was interested in visual effects only. He painted this picture on the spot, probably in a single session. The colors are the muted and nuanced tones Sisley preferred, and the shapes of his brushstrokes change in response to the different textures of light and the landscape: gliding ripples in the watery reflections, broad square blocks of pigment in the window panes. Sisley chose his vantage points carefully, to frame and compose his views. Notice how he uses the trees and pylon at the right to balance the tall mass of the restaurant on the left and how the dark figures who pole small boats help our eye mark the distance into the background.

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